[Christ] has penetrated into the depths of darkness,
loneliness, rejection, agony and fear,
in order to touch the depths of darkness
in each one of us
and to call us to belief,
to call us to walk in this world of darkness,
loneliness, rejection, agony and fear –
hoping, trusting in the resurrection . . .
[So] do not turn aside from your own pain,
your anguish and brokenness,
your loneliness and emptiness,
by pretending you are strong.
Go within yourself.
Go down the ladder of your own being
until you discover –
like a seed
buried in the broken, ploughed earth
of your own vulnerability –
the presence of Jesus,
the light shining in the darkness.
taken from Easter Garden by Nicola Slee
I have walked in the desert – physically in Qatar, and spiritually. The chief loneliness of both deserts has been to see so large, unending a landscape, without meaningful markers, without boundaries: literally as large as life, for there appears no other.
To sit down (actually or metaphorically) and despair, is to be show something unexpected, and real. The endlessness is made up of grains of reality: tiny particles, each piled on another to create an entire landscape. There is no real ‘nothingness’ – and that understanding begins to change the perception of loss and emptiness.
It is a slow emergence of the sense of interest that sharpens all senses: here is the returning colour, here is the shape of something outlined by light, here is a tiny sign of life…
The different faces of Jesus – how many faces shall we feel driven to discover during this Lent? Shall we hold tightly to the comfortable, familiar, laughing Jesus – the one who celebrated at Canaa’s wedding feast, who slept peacefully in the company of his friends sailing across the Galilean sea, who was called a glutton by those scandalised that he would choose to eat and drink with ‘sinners’…. or seek and explore another face of Jesus, companion of the lost and those society had cast aside. He was no desert ascetic like his cousin John the Baptizer, his choice was not locusts and animal skins, but the good food and company of others.
Yet we may never doubt that he was tempted: those temptations to trade his ministry for the easy popularity of a public speaker; or to heed Peter’s demands that he should pass up the cup of his coming sacrifice: the ultimate temptation even to doubt God, as he hung in torment on the cross.
Tempted – but not sinning.
As we struggle – as we must – with doubts, and find more darkness than light, we can remember that Jesus kept faith – even in the lonely chaos of his temptation – holding the image of God, the understanding of presence, even in the long slow agony of death: crying out to the One who could never desert him.